The #4thYoungCitizens’FutureLab in Warsaw: European policies from a Central and Eastern European countries’ perspective

On 4 March 2019, WiseEuropa hosted the #4thYoungCitizens’FutureLab within the framework of the project #EngagEU co-funded by the “Europe for Citizens” program of the European Commission. Together with five experts in the field of European affairs, the partic­i­pants discussed the challenges that the European Union and young European citizens are expected to face after the European Parlia­mentary elections in May 2019. During the #4thYoungCitizens’FutureLab, more than 130 citizens partic­i­pated in different workshops as well as in a public debate organized by WiseEuropa in cooper­ation with the Centre of East European Studies. The workshops focused on the political situation in Poland and Ukraine, but also dealt with reflec­tions about European integration in general. Furthermore, the partic­i­pants concen­trated on issues of European identity as well as on integration in times of global migration. The following public debate dealt with the tensions in Eastern Europe caused by the two major sources of influence, Russia and the European integration.

During the consul­ta­tions in different workshops, partic­i­pants identified several challenges the European Union is facing as well as ideas how to tackle these challenges. They asked for:

Following the consul­ta­tions throughout the workshops, a public debate on “The European Parlia­mentary elections and Russia’s and Ukraine’s power play in the Central and Eastern Europe” took place. At this occasion, two rappor­teurs summa­rized the results of the precedent event #3rdYoungCitizens’FutureLab that was held a few weeks earlier in Nice. Agnieszka Lichnerowicz, journalist at the TOM FM radio station, moderated the discussion that at the beginning centered on the power of Russia and its potential impact on the upcoming European elections. Another point of discussion was to what extent the right-wing and Eurosceptic movements in Europe influence young citizens in the EU and how Eurosceptics can increase the feeling of insecurity among the citizens. The debate was divided into two parts: A panel discussion and a Q&A session. The experts Adam Balcer (WiseEuropa), Paweł Kowal (political scientist and commen­tator, expert at Eastern Europe), Marcin Kędzierski (Research director at “Jagiel­lonian Club”), Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz (former Ambas­sador of Poland to Russia) and Ludwika Włodek (lecturer at the Centre of East European Studies) started by discussing the relations between Russia and Ukraine, Russia and Europe and how the power play among these actors influ­ences the European elections. Then, the audience was invited to raise questions.

The questions were mainly related to infor­mation trans­mission in Russia about the political situation in Europe. Another question was if Russia was likely to take measures against countries such as Belarus, Ukraine or in the Western Balkan in the months ahead and if those possible actions might influence the elections in Europe and Ukraine. According to the panelists, any military action from Russia was unlikely because there were more effective methods to interfere (e.g. cybert­er­rorism).

The public was also concerned about the future of the Eastern Partnership and its decreasing impor­tance. The general assessment was that no EU member states was willing to advance this project and that the upcoming conference on Eastern Partnership event seemed to be just another event without any inter­na­tional prestige. It was however stated that the Partnership, once relaunched, might play an important role in keeping ties between the EU and its Eastern neighbors.

The debate proved how challenging it is to under­stand and to assess Russia’s impact on the EU. However, potential Russian influence on the European elections cannot serve as an excuse to withdraw attention of European stake­holders from difficult challenges such as migration, cybert­er­rorism, discrim­i­nation and populism that the EU needs to face. Therefore, it is even more important that the ideas for the future of Europe developed by young citizens at the #4thYoungCitizens’FutureLab receive attention. These ideas that have been published in the multi­lingual manifesto “Young Ideas for the Future of Europe” [LINK] have been discussed with the public as well as decision-makers at several occasions.

Authors: Johannes Hofmann/Jana Schubert